You Asked: Is Social Media Making Me Miserable?

Back in 1970, the technology writer Alvin Toffler published a book called Future Shock, which became an international bestseller. The book is about how humans struggle with too much technological change in too short a time—and it's all-too relevant today. Social media now dictates how people interact with friends, read the news and navigate their day-to-day existence.

What is all that doing to the human psyche?

Researchers have been trying to find out since the early 2000s, when the first studies on “social networking media” emerged. The field really ramped up with the advent of the iPhone in 2009. Like it is today, the early evidence was mixed.

One study found that positive interactions on sites like Friendster and MySpace could boost a user’s wellbeing, but another found that including strangers in your social network may have a negative impact on your self-esteem. Online social networks, researchers warned, are much different from a real-life social life.

Social media was so new and evolving so quickly, both in terms of its content and how users interacted with it, that researchers had a hard time keeping pace. But experts say the latest study conclusions are more consistent—though the news isn't good.

One recent study examined the links between Facebook use and wellbeing. “We found that the more you use Facebook over time, the more likely you are to experience negative physical health, negative mental health and negative life satisfaction,” says study author Holly Shakya, assistant professor and social media researcher at the University of California, San Diego.

More research is needed, she says, “but I think people do have a sense that this is a problem, and they’re ready to reflect on their use and to consider making changes.”

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